Yesterland
Studio Backlot Tour

A walking/tram tour of movie-making magic
— Continuous 35-minute tours

Welcome to the Studio Backlot Tour, as it was during its final years at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Don’t confuse this attraction with the original two-hour Backstage Studio Tour, even though this tour evolved from that one. The tour is now a shadow of what it once was. The residential street is just one of many things that’s gone.

Film and television production ceased here long ago, so you won’t see anything being filmed (or any stars walking around). Even when it was still a working studio, there wasn’t much production—but at least there was enough so that the conceit of going behind the scenes at a real movie studio kind-of worked.

Let’s go to the attraction entrance…

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Not the tram you’ll be on

No. There hasn’t been a terrible tram accident here. The tram that crashed through a corrugated metal wall is just an example of movie “make believe.” It’s also a clue that this is a tram tour.

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Queue for the Backlot Tour

Before the tram tour, there’s a walking tour—or, more accurately, a standing tour. First, you stand waiting to “batch load” into the special effects show. Then you stand to watch that show.

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Michael Bay

Watch the monitors. Director Michael Bay talks about how special effects scenes for the movie Pearl Harbor (2001) were done.

The next part of the show requires four audience volunteers. Interested? Just be sure you don’t have an aversion to water.

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Water tank audience

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Water tank, with a torpedo heading toward the audience

At the water tank, you’ll watch special effects filming for a movie called Harbor Attack. A lucky volunteer in the engine room is hit with a thousand gallons of water. The other three volunteers are on the deck of a PT boat under attack. Aerial gunfire! Flames! Torpedos!

Now watch a monitor. The scenes that were just filmed are combined with music, sound effects, and other film footage for the full attack sequence. It’s not as convincing as a real Michael Bay movie.

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Prop warehouse

The path from the water tank to the tram loading area takes you through the prop warehouse, with actual props from actual movies.

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Tram loading

You’ve now reached the tram portion of the Backlot Tour.

In the heyday of Hollywood’s movie factories, outdoor sets on the studio backlots allowed filmmakers to tell stories set in the Old West, ancient Rome, gangster-era American cities, European neighborhoods, and all sorts of other places and times—without leaving the studio lot.

On the tram ride that’s about to start, you’ll see almost none of that. You’ll catch a glimpse of the Streets of America, but you’ll see much more of that outdoor set if you just walk over there after the tram ride.

Props along the tram road have deteriorated. Some have been left to rot, while others have been hauled away. There’s not much of a backlot left on the Studio Backlot Tour.

Sit back. Prerecorded narration will tell you what you’re seeing. Enjoy the ride…

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Aircraft from Pearl Harbor

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Greens Department

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Earffel Tower

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Backstage parking

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Drive-through Costuming building

This is no longer a working studio, but there’s activity at Creative Costuming and the Scenic Shop anyway. That’s because these facilities serve the theme parks. The narration explains that Mickey Mouse alone has more than 150 different costumes.

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Scenic Shop

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Tram passing odds and ends

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Often not much “movie magic” to be seen

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Backstage at Lights, Motors, Action!

The huge arena and stunt driving stage for the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show obliterated much of the old backlot. But now it’s part of the tram tour.

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Walt Disney’s Airplane, “The Mouse”

As you pass a twin-engine airplane with Mickey Mouse on its tail, the recorded narration tells you, “On the right, we have an authentic piece of Disney history. That Gulfstream 1 was known in airports across the country as November Two Three Four Mickey Mouse. But we just call it ‘The Mouse.’”

Yesterland has a whole article about “The Mouse.”

Soon you’ll arrive at the best part of the tram ride, billed as “the largest standing set on our backlot.”

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Catastrophe Canyon, dry

Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Catastrophe Canyon, wet

Your tram enters a desert canyon landscape with a tanker truck. This is Catastrophe Canyon. There’s an earthquake. Power lines fall, igniting a tanker. As if that isn’t dramatic enough, a flash flood drenches the whole scene, threatening to make the audience wetter than the volunteers at the Water Tank Show.

You survived Catastrophe Canyon!

And soon, you will have survived the whole Studio Backlot Tour.


The Studio Backlot Tour—with its entrance at the far end of Mickey Avenue and the water tank special effects demonstration as its opening act—opened at Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park on June 30, 1996.

It was an updated subset of the Backstage Studio Tour, the opening-day (May 1, 1989) mega-attraction at Disney-MGM Studios. The tram portion of the original tour began where Star Wars Launch Bay is now located; it was followed by a lengthy walking tour—with a stop for restrooms, shopping, and dining between the two parts.

The original tour took two hours, including an hour of walking and standing. But the replacement Backstage Studio Tour took just 35 minutes.

Until March 2009, a live host provided commentary on the tram portion of the Studio Backlot Tour. Then, the tram tour switched to pre-recorded narration.

The Studio Backlot Tour closed permanently on September 27, 2014.

The highlight of the tram tour for more than a quarter century was Catastrophe Canyon.

Former Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Former entrance to Studio Backlot Tour

There’s now a nondescript warehouse building at the end of Mickey Avenue, without a crashed tour tram. Or at least the building was there in early February 2016.

2016 is the year of demolition at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The southwest side of the park has begun its transformation into Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land.


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Updated September 2, 2016.